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Antonio Gramsci

(1891—1937) Italian political theorist and activist, co-founder and leader of the Italian Communist Party

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Italian intellectual and founder of the Italian Communist Party.

Born in Alès, Sardinia, Gramsci was educated at the University of Turin, where he studied history and philosophy. As a student he participated in the Socialist Youth Federation and in 1913 joined the Socialist Party. During World War I (1914–18) he studied Marxist thought and became a leading speaker and theoretician for the left. In 1919 he founded L'Ordine Nuovo, a paper that was influential among left-wing intellectuals and asserted that the benefits of the Russian revolution were not necessarily limited to Soviet Russia.

In 1921 Gramsci, with Palmiro Togliatti and several others, broke away from the Socialist Party during the Livorno conference, to form the Communist Party. He became leader of the party and was elected to the chamber of deputies three years later. However, he was arrested and imprisoned by the fascists when the party was banned in 1926. He spent the next eleven years in prison and died in Rome in 1937.

Gramsci is best remembered for his political and philosophical writings. Written in prison and published posthumously, they include Lettere dal Carcere (1947) and Opere (nine vols, 1947–54), which deal with the nature of the political process and the role of intellectuals in that process. His theoretical ideas and practical criticism are still influential among left-wing thinkers.

Subjects: Literature

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